Lil Wayne kicked off his America’s Most Wanted summer package tour in Birmingham, Alabama Tuesday, almost four months to the day after the notoriously outlandish loose cannon was hospitalized after suffering a series of seizures that spurned widespread deathbed rumors. But the 30-year-old rapper was in fine form last night, turning in a tight, well-oiled romp of a set at the tour’s second stop at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Weezy was all smiles as he maximized his star power and milked repeated call and response “hell yeahs” and “fuck yeahs” out of a rowdy and riled crowd numbering close to 10,000, topping a Southern-fried arena-rap revue, also featuring fellow dirty hip-hop flag bearers T.I. and 2 Chainz, that felt more like a massive party.
Now purportedly sober, the rapper was on his best behavior last night, but he got his fix vicariously through the crowd, asking revelers in the house to shout a massive “I’m high right now!” Lil Wayne half-jokingly expressed his envy, cueing the weed-rap rallying call “Trippy.”
Minutes earlier, backed by a live band, a ripped Weezy took the stage, flanked by skate ramps (complete with actual skaters) and a pair of catwalks jutting out to the front of the crowd, amid hellfire pyrotechnics and stories-high video images of the rapper digitally enhanced to make him look like a hybrid butterfly. In other words, it was a full-scale production depicting where the perpetually grinning rapper’s head is at, just after the release of his return-to-form LP I Am Not a Human Being Part II.
While new cuts like “Curtains” and “Rich As Fuck” and “Gunwalk” (which featured 2 Chainz hyping the crowd and contributing his verses onstage) dominated the set, another pair of collaborations were highlights. The first: the slow-motion stomper “Bandz a Make Her Dance” (also performed with 2 Chainz), which sounded like the effects of codeine sonically personified and featured a backline of lusty backup dancers. The second: a breakneck shout-along with T.I. on the duo’s 2012 single “Ball.” In keeping with that raunchy theme, Weezy later called some scantily clad fans onstage to dance during the salacious “Burn.”
Other highlights included a swampy “Tapout,” which boasted a bromantic appearance from Mack Maine and Birdman, and the closing “No Worries,” which ended rather abruptly. There was no encore, and it was a shock when the house lights went up without Weezy having played three of his biggest, seemingly inevitable hits: “Lollipop,” “A Milli” and “6 Foot 7 Foot.”
“I’ve got hits! I can do this shit all night!” T.I. proclaimed during his opening set, the veteran rapper by contrast chocking his 45-minute set full of Aughts hip-hop radio staples like “Bring Em Out,” “Whatever You Like” and “What You Know.” Those highlights were second only to the crushingly anthemic “Live Your Life,” which featured a surprised guest appearance from B.o.B. Regrettably, Rihanna wasn’t on hand to contribute her part of the track.
Despite the hit parade, however, T.I.P. got the best response from the youngish crowd on crunker, high-energy early-set roof-raisers like “Ride Wit Me” and “Trap Back Jumpin’.” “Y’all know who started this trap shit,” one of T.I.’s hype men reminded all at one point.
But T.I. struggled to keep the kids on their feet with his smoother jams. He donned a suit and crooned his retro-funk Robin Thicke/Pharrell collaboration “Blurred Lines” while busting out dance moves akin to P. Diddy on “I’ll Be Missing You” while disrobing one layer at a time, going from suit jacket, to wife-beater and eventually shirtless, like he was losing at strip poker.
Surprisingly, the show’s peak came early in the evening during 2 Chainz’ (who replaced Future as the package tour’s other marquee opener) brief set. In an epic fake-out, the rapper briefly brought the vibe down, asking the crowd for a moment of silence – “rest in peace to this motherfuckin’ stage,” he shouted, inspiring an en masse roof-raising with “R.I.P.,” his clubby Young Jeezy collaboration. It was one of a show-stealing, harum-scarum slew of hard-hitting uber-trap moments that literally shuck and bounced the lower bowl’s metal bleachers so drastically it felt like balancing on a rickety fishing boat on a storming sea. The party vibe reached critical mass when the rapper played his recent hit “Birthday Song.”
“Free Young Buck,” 2 Chainz said before dropping the mic in triumph and exiting the stage – a nod to the Nashville rapper and former 50 Cent protégé, who’s currently incarcerated in a Mississippi federal prison on a gun possession conviction.
The America’s Most Wanted Tour lands in Atlanta tomorrow night and wraps stateside on September 1st in Irvine, California, before jumping across the pond for a fall European run which will feature Mac Miller.